AP Story: Packers Beat Panthers 31-17

Brett Favre won the senior bowl, throwing three touchdowns in the Green Bay Packers’ 31-17 victory over fellow passing patriarch Vinny Testaverde and the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. It was the first of three games in 12 days for the Packers (9-1), who play at Detroit on Thanksgiving and at Dallas the following Thursday. - More | Packers-Panthers Game Center


Brett Favre won the senior bowl.

And now that they're off to their best start since the Vince Lombardi era, the Green Bay Packers have another big bowl on their minds.

But even after a relatively easy 31-17 romp past fellow passing patriarch Vinny Testaverde and the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, Favre and the Packers (9-1) don't want to get caught looking ahead looking ahead to the playoffs and beyond.

Not with back-to-back Thursday games at Detroit and Dallas on the horizon.

"By no means can we rest, or think that we arrived," Favre said, "because we haven't."

And if Packers coach Mike McCarthy wants to drive that point home this week, he can point to the two second-half touchdowns his defense gave up to the Panthers (4-6) after taking a 28-3 lead in the third quarter.

Nitpicking? Not if your goal is to win the Super Bowl.

"We need to do a better job of finishing games," McCarthy said. "We're up 28-3, we can learn from that experience and put the opponent away. There was some sloppiness in our play down the stretch that we can learn from."

It's Green Bay's best start since 1962, when Lombardi's Packers started 10-0 on their way to their eighth world title. Green Bay has a three-game lead on Detroit and can virtually wrap up the NFC North with a win Thursday.

Favre threw three touchdowns in a game that featured the oldest starting quarterbacks duo in NFL history, the 44-year-old Testaverde and 38-year-old Favre.

Favre is playing like he's in his prime these days, completing 22 of 30 passes for 218 yards on Sunday. But Testaverde held his own, shaking off a pair of interceptions to throw two second-half touchdowns.

It wasn't enough to win, but it wasn't bad for a guy who was out of the league a little more than a month ago and who played Sunday's game without injured receiver Steve Smith.

"Made it a little bit exciting toward the end there, but we obviously came up short," Testaverde said. "Green Bay made the plays when they had to, and they're a pretty good football team."

Smith was inactive because of a shin injury that kept him out of practice this week.

"Are we frustrated? No, because we haven't quit," Smith said. "Are we disappointed with the outcome? Yes."

Favre walked away impressed.

"I don't think I could do it, or play as well as he did at 44," Favre said. "Quite a feat."

It was Favre's 62nd career game with at least three touchdown passes, tying yet another of Dan Marino's records. Favre has set all kinds of records this season, but he has spent much of his time worrying that the Packers' younger players are a little too loose.

Now he wonders if he should just throw up his hands and start "riding the wave."

"I see the confidence that we have, and it makes me nervous," Favre said. "But I guess I kind of have to give into it."

Favre got off to a slow start on Sunday, but found his rhythm on the Packers' first possession of the second quarter.

He lofted a 47-yard pass to Donald Driver to move the Packers into Panthers territory; zinged a rocket to James Jones to set up first-and-goal on the 5; then tossed a soft changeup to Greg Jennings on a slant route to put the Packers ahead 14-3.

{sportsad300}Favre led the Packers to another touchdown later in the second quarter, finding tight end Donald Lee on a post pattern for a 26-yard score.

The Panthers had a scoring chance just before halftime. But at the Green Bay 7 with 16 seconds remaining, Corey Williams forced a fumble and Aaron Kampman recovered the ball.

Green Bay's Koren Robinson returned the second-half kickoff 67 yards to the Carolina 28, and Favre found Lee for a 12-yard touchdown pass four plays later.

The Panthers' pass defense was affected by a thumb injury to cornerback Chris Gamble.

"That's no excuse," Panthers coach John Fox said. "They're good. I think for the most part, we contained them. We just couldn't stay up with them."

Late in the third quarter, Testaverde threw a 2-yard pass to tight end Christian Fauria, who launched into an enthusiastic end-zone celebration with his team trailing by three scores.

Testaverde then threw a 5-yard touchdown to Drew Carter to cut Green Bay's lead to 28-17 with 4:22 left.

Carter caught five passes for 132 yards.

"I thought our offense moved the ball well," Fox said. "We had more production today than we've had in quite some time. The turnovers I think were a factor, we had a fumble and two interceptions versus I don't think any turnovers the other way. And in a game like that, that's usually the difference."

Game notes

Packers defensive lineman Johnny Jolly injured his shoulder, but McCarthy said he should be available for Thursday's game at Detroit. ... McCarthy said Packers running back Ryan Grant had a "mild" ankle sprain after another good game, gaining 88 yards on 20 carries. His availability for Thursday was not clear. ... Green Bay scored its first touchdown on Tramon Williams' 94-yard punt return when Carolina kicker John Kasay punted after faking a field goal attempt.

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